The young women of Potty Mouth balk at the idea of being dropped under a “riot grrrl” genre designation, and understandably so. As bassist Ally Einbender rightly put it to the folks at Stereogum earlier this year, “GENDER DOES NOT EQUAL GENRE.”
Can’t blame them for being frustrated at this. Sure, the band named itself after a seminal document of the riot grrrl movement—the first LP by Bratmobile—but only viewing this quartet from that narrow perspective is just silly. Potty Mouth, like any good students of their chosen genre, dug into the influences that brought the riot grrrl sound into being: the vibrant late ‘70s post-punk scene and the ragged underground rock scene in the US of the ‘80s.
These four women have followed that thread through to current days, holding on to not only the angst-ridden drive of the music but the tone of defiance and empowerment that rides alongside. The songs on Hell Bent, the band’s second album, are fearless expressions of self-reliance (“I’m rusted shut/but I’m not one to give up/I’m rusted shut/but I’m not gonna shut up”), middle fingers to people trying to read motivation into the band’s actions (“What happened to you to make you wear black and studs?/what happened to me to wear them just because”), and self-flagellating journal entries (“My head is spinning/my lips are numb/How about one more?/It’s just for fun/But I can’t stand and I feel dumb”).
The riot grrrl comparisons are especially inapt as Potty Mouth are far more musically accomplished than almost all of their ‘90s-era peers. Guitarists Abby Weems and Phoebe Harris have a far stronger command of dynamics and how to mix together slashing rhythm work with Robert Quine-like leads. And drummer Victoria Mandanas keeps the entire album rumbling forward like a speedy locomotive. The baton has been passed to these fine young women, and they are running far and away beyond their forebears.